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Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)


Every year, millions of Americans face disaster, and its terrifying consequences. Natural perils of extreme winds, fires, earthquakes, floods, along with failures in the nation's infrastructure and terrorism may threaten communities. FEMA and NIST are working to reduce national disaster losses and enhance Homeland Security.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA is an independent agency of the federal government reporting to the President. FEMA's vision is "A Nation Prepared" and our mission is to lead America to prepare for, minimize damage from, respond to, and recover from disasters. The Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) meets that mission by working to reduce loss of life and property and to protect the nation's critical infrastructure from all types of hazards, through a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program of mitigation which enhances disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

FEMA has drastically changed the way America deals with disasters. FEMA encourages communities across the country to assess their risk, identify their vulnerabilities, and take steps to prevent disaster damage before disaster strikes. FEMA disseminates information on the latest research, technology and mitigation practices to local communities, where this information is needed most.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
NIST is a non-regulatory, federal agency within the Commerce Department's Technology Administration. Through research and other activities, NIST strengthens the nation's economy and improves the quality of life by working with industry to develop and promote technology, measurements and standards.

NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) partners with other public and private sector bodies in research, development, demonstration and deployment programs in four strategic areas: advanced construction systems and processes, high performance building materials, building performance enhancement, and fire and disaster loss reduction.

Specifically, BFRL

  • Conducts problem-focused research and development to enable innovation by removing technical barriers, evaluating advanced technologies, and providing the technical basis for performance standards, codes, and practices.
  • Develops advanced measurement, modeling, and simulation tools to measure and predict the performance of buildings and critical physical infrastructure under extreme conditions (e.g., earthquakes, extreme winds, fires, blast, impact, and chemical/biological hazards).
  • Conducts disaster and failure investigations to study performance, derive lessons learned, create new technical and/or scientific knowledge, and develop the technical basis and recommendations for improved building and fire standards, codes, and practices.
  • NIST's other laboratories offer a unique combination of additional resources for support of and synergy with FEMA's mission programs.


This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a framework for NIST to serve as a research resource for FEMA in the areas of fire, disaster prevention, and homeland security and will serve to improve and enhance the effectiveness of cooperation between FEMA and NIST. Its purposes are to (1) further the reduction of loss of life and property and protect the nation's buildings and infrastructure from all types of hazards, (2) aid the development of technology and methods to evaluate equipment for use by the Nation's fire, rescue, civil defense services, and other first responders, and (3) to assist FEMA with scientific and technological services in disaster investigations, recovery planning and support technologies.


FEMA and NIST recognize that their missions in fire, disaster prevention, and man-made disaster events are highly complementary and that it is in the public interest to exploit that synergy. FEMA serves the emergency services and management communities by disseminating critical technology and practices. NIST has expertise to develop, validate, and demonstrate technologies, measurement and evaluation methods, and best practices. NIST also works closely with industry and university experts and organizations in carrying out its work.

NIST will provide scientific and technical assistance to FEMA in areas of NIST competence to the extent possible within the limitations of NIST's research priorities and available resources. In addition, the Administrator of FIMA may call on NIST as a research and technical resource when needed for technology assessment and development. This in no way bars FEMA from obtaining such support in a competitive process from other sources, nor does it bar NIST from providing services to, or obtaining such support in a competitive process from, other sources.

FEMA - NIST Coordination

FEMA and NIST agree to develop and implement a coordinated annual process to plan, prioritize, select, and fund projects of mutual interest in fire, disaster prevention, and homeland security, and in equipment evaluation for fire, rescue, civil defense services, and other first responders.

FEMA and NIST agree to establish a quick deployment mechanism that may be activated when both the Administrator of FIMA and the Director of NIST determine a need for NIST to provide technical assistance to FEMA in responding to extreme events. FEMA and NIST agree to develop and sign, within 60 days of the date of this agreement, an operational protocol for the quick deployment mechanism. The protocol will define the NIST role and readiness requirements. This provision does not preclude either FEMA or NIST from responding to extreme events independently under their respective authorities.

FEMA and NIST agree that projects may involve cooperation with and/or participation of other agencies, industries and university experts.

FEMA and NIST agree that each agency will designate an Agency Point-of-Contact for carrying out this agreement with subsequent Points-of Contact identified for each addendum to this agreement. These individuals shall be named within 60 days of the signing of this agreement.

The Administrator of FIMA and the Director of NIST, or their designees, will meet on a semi-annual basis to review progress and provide general policy direction in implementing this agreement.


Nothing herein is intended to conflict with current FEMA or NIST authorities or directives or to supercede the provisions of other agreements between FEMA and NIST. If any terms of this MOU are inconsistent with existing authorities or directives of either of the Agencies entering into this MOU, those portions of this MOU that are determined to be inconsistent shall be invalid; the remaining terms and conditions shall remain in full force and effect.


Activities under this MOU shall be implemented through addenda that describe specific activities, programs, projects, authorities, and financial arrangements. These addenda shall be incorporated into this agreement in the future based upon mutual agreement between FEMA and NIST.

This Partnership Agreement is effective March 29, 2002.


This MOU shall be reviewed annually, and it may be amended at any time by the consent of both parties. Addition of projects described in whole as a signed Addendum may be added at any time, as appropriate and practical, by mutual consent. The Director of NIST and the Administrator of FIMA agree that either party may terminate this MOU 60 days after notifying the other party in writing.


Arden Bement, DirectorNational Institute of Standards and Technology Robert F. Shea, Jr, Acting AdministratorFederal Insurance and Mitigation Admin. Federal Emergency Management Agency




Released March 29, 2002, Updated January 12, 2023